The End of the Journey
July 02, 2007
I. In late 1988, when I set out to write a life of Whittaker Chambers,the cold war had reached its ceremonial endgame: Mikhail Gorbachevacknowledging the autonomy of peoples long after they had liberatedthemselves, valiant students halting tank columns in TiananmenSquare. It was an impressive, if occasionally hollow, spectacle,and it inspired a chorus of sweeping pronouncements in the UnitedStates.
On Feeling the Misery of Strangers
February 04, 2005
The other day, as I was walking to the grocery store, I strategically moved toward the far edge of the sidewalk to put distance between myself and a pile of large, black trash bags haphazardly stacked against the side of a building. This sight is common in downtown Manhattan, as was the rustling I heard among the bags, which nevertheless made me start. Rats or mice, I thought, as I instinctively crossed the street to avoid them, but it was still light out, too early, it seemed to me, for these nocturnal creatures to be rummaging for food.
September 09, 2002
The United States added a critical ounce of prevention to its war on terrorism last week. One hundred pounds of prevention, actually, in the form of bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium airlifted from Serbia to Russia for safekeeping. The nuclear material had been sitting around for more than a decade at Belgrade's Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences—a decrepit civilian nuclear reactor—in small, low-radiation canisters that would have been easy to carry off without special equipment. The site was protected by little more than a barbed-wire fence and a few lightly armed guards.
Human, All Too Inhuman
July 24, 2000
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Random House, 462 pp., $25.95) A genre is hardening. It is becoming easy to describe the contemporary idea of the "big, ambitious novel." Familial resemblances are asserting themselves, and a parent can be named: he is Dickens. Such recent novels as The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Mason & Dixon, Underworld, Infinite Jest, and now White Teeth overlap rather as the pages of an atlas expire into each other at their edges.
Purity and Danger
November 22, 1992
Between Hell and Reason: Essays from the Resistance Paper Combat, 1944-1947 By Albert Camus Selected and translated by Alexandre de Gramont (University Press of New England, 189 pp., $35, $14.95 paper) The Human Race By Robert Antelme Translated by Jeffrey and Annie Mahler (Marlboro Press, 298 pp., $23.95) France carries within itself a diseased body, a minority of men who yesterday brought France sorrow and who continue to do so today. These are men of betrayal and injustice ... we must decide whether we want to destroy them.... This nation has not understood that it has been betrayed by cer
The Triumph of Asian-Americans
July 15, 1985
David A. Bell: How one group of immigrants found its place in America.
Atomic and Human Energy
August 27, 1945
The first use of the atomic bomb against a hostile population has, in spite of its stunning success as a weapon of war, brought forth expressions of guilt and horror from many parts of the world. These emotions have been felt even in the victorious nations, and even by persons who are glad on the whole that it was employed to bring the war to a quick end. They are probably less strong in the United States than in England, which has suffered the actual experience of indiscriminate devastation from the air. It is indeed difficult to justify use of an extreme form of the kind of weapon which hit